Travel Taco Tuesday

Holy Guacamole! These last few weeks have flown by and it’s time for my monthly ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’ post. This month my focus is on food, more specifically, cheesy veggie goodness rolled into a soft (or for some, hard – I’m judging you btw) tortilla shell. I’m focusing on Tacos, lets tacobout it now!
Travel Tip Tuesday & Tacos
I just returned from Cancun, Mexico on a mission to sample all the best tacos that I could possibly fit into my stomach. For the full video, including my reactions to hot sauce and tequila (cause you have to in Mexico), check out my YouTube channel Mellie Telly for my latest video HERE!
Hello From Cancun
No time for a video? Then read on for my tips on finding, eating, and enjoying my favourite food. I mean, we had a wedding taco party, how much more dedicated can you get?!

The Taco Search

Finding tacos in Mexico is not difficult; the real 5-star challenge is finding a local business, not the restaurant chains geared towards sucking as much money as possible from tourists while providing practically tasteless food. I spent lots of time on Google searching “The best tacos in Cancun”, reading forums, searching “Local tacos” and looking up suggestions from expats and locals alike. To save you the time, here is my list of restaurants that I have personally tried or ambitiously wanted to make a stop at: Taco Factory, La Parrilla, Tacun, The Surfin Burritto, El Asador, El Poblano, Tacos Rigo, Los de Pescado, Taqueria Coapeñitos and Mextreme. Some are located in the Hotel Zone, and some downtown Cancun. Taco TimeIn the end, we could not possibly hit up every single place. In Mexico, portion sizes tend to be enormous and greasy and add in the intense summer heat, was way too much food. We ended up sticking to a few local places downtown (so local that not a single tourist was in sight, and no one understood English, PERFECT), with a few touristy spots for comparison. Can you guess which ones were best?
Build Your Own Taco at El Poblano
You’re right if you were thinking the handmade, under-priced, over-spiced deliciousness that the local shops offered up. Oddly enough, many places did not have vegetarian tacos on the menu, so after some hand gestures and awkward attempts at Spanish, they were willing to create something special. Often it would result in a ‘build your own’ taco, and gluten-free was not always possible. You win some, you lose some.

Eat It Hot

All meals are served with chips, dip and HOT sauce to start. I prefer that over bread and oil any day. The hotter the sauce, the better, provided I had a Corona or Sol (low gluten beer) to combat the burn. I suggest trying all the sauces on the table; you are in Mexico after all. The colour of the dip or salsa is not an indicator of spice, as in some restaurants the green one was the hell in the bottle and others the red one was the mouth scorcher. Not sampling all the flavours would be like flying to Amsterdam and not having a handful of cheese. No one does that.
Taco Factory Cancun
Most of the time the tacos were fresh off the grill, hot, spicy and ready to go. Have napkins nearby to soak up your sweat, a bottle of water and/or beer, and you are set to roast in the sun and eat tacos to your heart’s content. I always take a bite first to experience the original flavour the chef provided, and then add sauces and lime wedge squeezes if needed.

The Results Are In

More often than not, my stomach and taste buds were satisfied. There were some meat close calls (1 accidental consumption), too many intakes of gluten and some fun games of charades before ordering, but Cheese Louise, it’s worth it for tacos. Overall I was surprised by the lack of “street meat” taco stands that I had envisioned would fill the roads, perhaps we were not in the right city? Or it was tourist down season?  If you know, leave a message in the comments below.

To see which taco won my heart over in Cancun, be sure to watch my YouTube video on Mellie Telly!El PoblanoNo matter how tasty these Mexican meals were, I am still on the hunt for the PERFECT taco holy grail (and maybe one that won’t cause stomach pains hours later). So far the best have been the ones we’ve made, (with love) with our own hand-picked ingredients and extra flavours. Maybe it’s the control of portion sizes, adding specifically what I’m craving or the joys of building and plating my own. Now, let’s see if my saucy souvenirs will now only enhance what we already have, as my search continues.

Cheers,
Melissa

I’m Back

I feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger as I said “I’ll be back”, and well,  here I am! I am back in the 6ix (and just in time for a sweet Raptors win). I have no super crazy announcements to make…yet…so no need to rush out and purchase tickets to a play or schedule your DVR to record me on TV. However, I can say that I have been hitting the ground running, literally, since we have landed.
Toronto View at NIght
I have been lucky enough to reconnect with my previous agent, Scott Merritt, who has been sending me to multiple auditions a WEEK. Being back has brought on some new challenges, as auditioning in Amsterdam is quite different from Toronto, so that will take a bit to get used to again.  It has been refreshing to get my feet wet in the Canadian acting realm.

For those interested, I have also started to post more regularity on my YouTube channel (Mellie Telly). I took a small hiatus (to ship our editing computer overseas of course) but I am back, with so much new content that I am incredibly excited to share with you on a more routine schedule! So please head over to Mellie Telly and subscribe now to stay notified of my latest videos, I’d love your support. My most recent videos are on the 160th Queens Plate in Toronto, and Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery.

I am also excited to announce that I will now be blogging for Master Traveller, and continuing to share my love of travel! Check out my Q and A HERE.

There are a few more exciting new projects on the horizon, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things. Stay tuned!

Cheers,
Melissa

Sweet Dreams

Travel tip Tuesday - Getting Good Sleep
Happy Travel Tip Tuesday! This month’s tip is nothing to lose sleep over. I want to help you feel well rested after your free walking tour in your city of choice. I know it can be quite difficult to catch some Z’s when you are traveling in an unfamiliar setting, flying in and out of different time zones, getting stuck with pancake pillows (the worst), a lumpy mattress, or itchy sheets. Add in some AirBnB roomies and a new environment filled with creepy sounds, and you have a recipe for disaster for your sleeping schedule. So here are some tips to try on your next trip!

Get Active
First, I try to stay active all day long (8am-10pm), which is not very hard to do in a new place. If you spend all day exploring, going on adventures, hiking, climbing to the tops of cathedrals or walking around endlessly in museums, you will naturally be pooped at the end of the day. Trust me. If you are more of a vacation lounger, this may be a bit more difficult unless you are soaking up a lot of the suns rays all day – that alone can make you a bit sleepy. However, try not to nap while resting on that beach, as tempting as it is, as that can affect your sheep counting ability in the PM.
Pink PJs
Cut the Caffeine
I need a coffee IV to function in the morning, ask my husband. It is NOT a pretty sight until I’ve had my caffeine fill. But when traveling I cut myself off by mid-afternoon, as caffeine can stay in your blood for 6 to 8 hours! This is to ensure I’m not all hyped up on my second wind when I should be dreaming of my early morning excursion. (Find out why getting up early is essential when traveling HERE).
Morning Java
Just Ask
Whether you are in a hotel, motel, AirBnB, bed and breakfast, whatever, don’t be afraid to just ask for what you need! Prefer having 3 pillows? More blankets? A fan on (whether for just the white noise or the gentle breeze), ask the host/concierge. It doesn’t hurt to inquire about what will help you reach your sleep goals. Worst case – it’s a no. I find I sleep best when there is a window cracked open, as often it’s hard to get comfortable when the room is too hot and stuffy. If you know you may need certain items in your room beforehand, make a special request so you don’t have to ask after check-in when you just want to hit the hay and put your head down.
Good Night
Other Options
When in doubt, put your phone down and your screen away, pick up a book, relax, have a glass of warm milk (not wine – that can affect your hormones and disrupt your sleep) and pop some melatonin. This is a non-prescription drug that aids in rising your melatonin hormone levels and gives you a little nudge towards sweet dreams. However before taking any drugs or sleep aids, I highly suggest consulting with a physician or doing your own extensive research, I’m not a doctor, clearly!

Do you have issues sleeping when you travel? What do you do to aid it? Any questions for my next monthly travel tip? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Why you should travel with a Backpack!

Travel Tip Tuesday
Happy Travel Tip Tuesday! After a 2 month hiatus to return to life back in Toronto, from Amsterdam, I am back with more monthly tips and tricks for your next travel adventure! After binge-watching Marie Kondo on Netflix, purging through our stuff to move back, and sifting through any unnecessary belongings that had accumulated over time, I want to take a moment to focus on the effectiveness of packing light.

I love having wardrobe options with matching jewelry, day and night shoes, and numerous hat options; but after spending many weekends living out of a backpack, I’ve learned how unnecessary it can be. I’m not saying to wear the same outfit all weekend (you do want some variety in your Instagram photos, and need to be prepared for all weather types), just find articles of clothing that can be mixed, matched and layered (if necessary). Pairing this plan with different accessories each day can refresh your look, but more importantly, leave more room in your backpack or reduce weight – your back will thank you.
Wearing a backpack in South Africa
Traveling with just a backpack means that you don’t have to wait for checked luggage and won’t have to stress about lugging around a bag with wheels up long staircases, or wish you had additional arms to carry more stuff. This is ideal if you have an early or late flight (as you can stroll in a bit closer to your flight, and not waste time in a line to get your luggage weighed and tagged). It also means that you can walk a bit faster with just what you need on your back, and cover more ground seeing more landmarks on your trip. Perhaps the most important of all, with a well-balanced bag that fits you properly, it greatly reduces the strain on your body and you may even forget you have a bag on at all! – great for stairs, terrible in antique shops.
Wearing a backpack in Bordeaux
When packing your knapsack, I find it’s ideal to roll up your clothes. I’ll pre-steam the wrinkles out, and then neatly and tightly roll everything so I can pack more. That also leaves space for your toiletries, makeup, an empty water bottle, socks, undergarments, accessories, etc. Always leave a tinnnny bit of room for any souvenirs you may pick up along the way, optional if that’s not your jam. Also, a hot tip, since this is your carryon item on flights (so you don’t need to be separated from your belongings), you usually also get a personal item. For us, that usually means my purse, my husband’s prized procession (his camera) or a fragile purchase from an antique market.
Travel with a Backpack
So next time you are luggage shopping at The Bay or Bently, don’t forget to consider a nice sturdy backpack. For ample back support get one with straps that clip along the chest, they don’t look nerdy or touristy at all, says my husband. Or go for the Eddie Bauer stowaway packable backpack. I love that you can use it all day and then fold it up into a tiny bag and store it when you don’t need it! For more tips on how to make the most out of the space in your knapsack, check out my tips on travel makeup options HERE, or learn how to cut down on hair appliances HERE.

Do you travel with a backpack? Do you have any travel questions that you want me to cover in my next monthly post? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Travel On A Budget

sunday market (6)It’s that time of the month for Travel Tip Tuesday! Are you travelling on a budget? Look for free things to do! Most cities offer some tourist attractions that are free or by donation. This can include museums, churches, graveyards, parks, gardens, beaches, waterfalls, hiking and more! Some locations have special free days once a month on big tourist attractions as well (such as the last Sunday of the month in Rome, where most attractions are free including the Colosseum and Roman Forum), or cheaper rates on unpopular nights (enjoy discount tickets at The Rom on Friday nights in Toronto and Thursday nights at The Bata Shoe Museum).RomeHere’s the catch; other people are also looking for these deals and the free days can come with higher than normal lines to get in, and perhaps can overcrowd your perfect Instagram shot. So go early, have patience, bring snacks and be prepared.Tourists at VaticanYou all know by now that I am a huge advocate for the pay by donation walking tours (such as Sandeman Tours), as they allow you to see parts of the city through the eyes of a local.  I recommend doing this at the beginning of your trip, in case you hear of something you want to check out that is not on your itinerary!ArtWant to see more vintage artefacts without spending a dime? Check out high-end antique or art shops. This is a great option if you are a budget traveller, and sales staff are typically more than willing to give you a full history lesson regarding a particular piece.  If in doubt, Google is your friend! Ask it anything!

Any other travel questions? Let me know! And stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

Photos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Cheers,
Melissa

Do As The Locals Do

IMG_1825_editedFirst off, hope you had a lovely Easter weekend filled with family, friends, fun and of course chocolate!sunday market (3)It’s that time for Travel Tip Tuesday! One of my favourite things when travelling is to do as the locals do. When travelling you most definitely want to check out the famous iconic landmarks that each city holds, but also try to venture off the beaten path. Some of the best foods I’ve eaten were not in touristy restaurants, but mom and pop shops that were not listed on maps! You can find beautiful sites, delicious food and local crafts that are not commercialized when you step out of the main tourist core. Also asking the locals where they like to eat and shop can be helpful and very rewarding! Want to save some cash? You can check out the local grocery stores for snacks to carry with you when exploring.IMG_8532(LR)_editedEnjoy your trip and be adventurous, but with a degree of caution to your surroundings. Any other travel questions? Let me know! And stay tuned for more!

Cheers,
Melissa

Buda – Best!

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is pretty awesome! There are so many exciting options to explore; you will need more than a couple of days. I must say, one of my favourite things to do with my BFF was the traditional Hungarian bath. Szechenyi Spa was our bath of choice, the largest medicinal bath in Europe. There you can relax outdoors in a 20th century heated pool, steam your face, and tan, all in the middle of winter! I’ve never done a public bath before and this was definitely an enthusiastic check off the bucket list. If you are a budget minded traveller, you can bring your own towel to save a few Euros! And if you work up an appetite after all that swimming, stop at the nearby Varosliget Café & Restaurant, at Budapest City Park, for a mid-day lunch. There they have a spectacular view, reasonable prices, and a delicious gluten free vegetarian option (grilled sheep cheese with roasted vegetables – yum).
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Other amazing mentionable activities in Budapest include: Fisherman’s Bastion (which is a bit of an uphill hike but a must see at night), Buda Castle, Heroes Square, Hungarian Parliament (so beautiful), Matthias Church, St Stephen’s Basilica (only 300 steps up for a panorama view of the city) and Shoes on the Danube (a touching WW2 memorial along the river, seen in the photo below). When you get a little snack-ish from all that walking, be sure to try the traditional chimney cake, which will give you an instant delicious  doughy sugar boost!
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Your day does not end when night begins here. In Budapest there are many ruin bars, restaurants and lots to do in the city when the sun goes down. We went to Mazel Tov for some great eats for a girls night in a romantic ruin setting, and drank some traditional Palinka at Szimpla Kert Ruin bar. Another activity I would highly recommend is a wine tasting at Faust Wine Cellar in Hotel Hilton Budapest. The wine cellar is in the basement, with a cave like feel. The setting is dark and intimate. You get a personal tasting of the most delicious Hungarian wines, along with a treat to snack on. For wine lovers, this is a must do while in Budapest, and a brilliant thoughtful surprise from my bestie!

One thing to note is that Budapest is pretty cheap, (leaps and bounds cheaper than the last trip to Zurich), which makes eating and souvenir shopping a lot easier on the wallet. They do have their own currency there (Hungarian Forint also referred to as HUF, which is roughly 314 HUF for 1 Euro) however we were able to get away with using cards or Euros the entire time.
20180216_153600_Film3_edited
To see more photos of life in Budapest, be sure to check out http://fromkaren.com/, for gorgeous views of the stunning city (and so much more)! Overall I will definitely be back to this charming city one day.

Do you have any questions? Did I miss anything? Where should I travel next? Comment below to let me know!

Cheers,
Melissa

Travel & Beauty

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Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE makeup. I really don’t go very far without it (especially if we are taking lots of photos and videos). But when you travel with just a backpack, you don’t always have much room for cosmetics (especially when you plan on bringing back souvenirs). So over the year I have learnt to pack light and minimal when it comes to beauty. I have also discovered, and absolutely love, all-in-one makeup travel kits such as the Gigi Hadid Jetsetter Palette from Maybelline and the Douglas Collection Mini Star Palette. Makeup travel kits work great because they are small, but last, and have all your beauty essentials. This along with a powder compact is really all you need on a trip. Another reason I love these is that they often have eye shadow shades that I would not normally try, and you still get concealer/ contour options! What is in your travel makeup bag?
sunday marketI also have just started a collection of lipsticks from visited countries, so that I have a shade to remind me of each trip! What do you collect?
20180206_095044_edited_editedAny other travel questions? Let me know! And stay tuned for more monthly tips and tricks!

Cheers,
Melissa

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